The Cynical Tourist's Guide To...Alaska
From large groups of trees, to snow-capped mountains, to the ground under those mountains and trees, it's fairly safe to say that Alaska has got it all. It's a land of wonder, excitement, and adventure, where anything can, and will happen! Well...I'm being a bit generous. It's probably more like a land of quiet bemusement, snowstorms, and mild anticipation. Hmm. Still seems kind of dishonest. OK: At the very least, Alaska is a land which, I would assume, is not entirely without it's charms. There. That sounds about right.
I would, however, like to apologize in advance for the lack of actual tourism-based content in this article. I sincerely did try to find some interesting and original things that people could do visiting Alaska, but I mostly came up emptyhanded. the way I see it, this could be taken to mean one of two things: 1. There actually is nothing interesting going on in Alaska, or 2. I am just sort of lazy.
I'm thinking it's probably a little of both.
CruisesThere's an old traveler's saying that goes "It's not the destination which is important, but the journey." This does not bode well for Alaskan cruises, as the "destination" is invariably Alaska (not cool) and the "journey" consists of either seeing the same second-rate magician for the fourth time or vomiting bile over a railing for nine days. Hows that sound for 4000 dollars?
But hey, so as not to seem dismissive of cruises, I went ahead and did some quick research on them ( meaning: I searched for "what to do on a cruise ship" and glanced over the first few results). Here's what I came up with.
1. LecturesAccording to one article I saw "Many cruise lines offer on-board talks and lectures"! Huzzah! What could be lovelier than an evening spent in a belowdecks cabin of a ship listening to a talk on "The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877" while combatting a bone-shaking bout of seasickness? Nothing, as far as I'm concerned.
2. The ArcadeMany cruise ships have arcades, but let me tell you: If the arcades on Alaskan ships are as shitty as mainland US arcades (and I have no reason to assume otherwise) it's probably not a good idea to get your hopes up. Unless of course your idea of a good time is paying $1.50 to play a 12-year-old cabinet of Time Crisis II with a broken pedal or disinterestedly hammering on the stained buttons of Marvel vs Capcom in a halfhearted attempt to break it out of it's perpetual boot cycle, in which case I'm certain you'll be thrilled with the cruise ship arcade.
3. SwimmingI've never understood what people do when they swim. Do they mostly just mill around? Chat with other swimmers? Dive? I honestly haven't got a clue. I haven't been swimming in 16 years. So seriously, what the hell am I gonna do in a pool on a cruise ship? Doing laps is out, because this is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Can I splash? Are adult men still allowed to splash in a public pool? Not that splashing is a goldmine of enjoyment or anything. I mean, you'd get maybe what, maybe ten twenty seconds of enjoyment out of a good splash session? If that. I suppose one could frolic. I have to tell you though: I've never been much of a frolicker. It doesn't suit me. I can pull off a romp or maybe even cavort a little (if pressed), but frolicking? Not a chance. In any event, I'm not sold on the idea of a cruise line pool.
4. The Bar
I've always been of the (controversial) opinion that an activity is not worthwhile if you have to get drunk to enjoy it. Obviously I am in the minority, seeing the United States is a nation of functioning alcoholics, pissing themselves as they down shot after shot in a desperate attempt to fit in with their equally uninteresting peers while simultaneously attempting to drown the gnawing sadness that has become a constant in their meaningless corporatized lives with sweet, sweet booze.
Mostly though, these drunks are just unimaginative. Getting drunk "for fun" is best left to lightweights and mental cowards. I can think of about 10 easily obtainable (and safer) drugs that would make for a far more interesting (and intellectually stimulating) night than alcohol. What, are you gonna try and tell me that a night of drinking at some dim bar surrounded by pathetic and angry drunks is more interesting than stumbling wide-eyed around a cruise ship after dropping 4 tabs of high-grade acid? Why, the absurdity of such a claim would border on the profound!
5. ShoppingLest my evil anticapitalist roots show through, I will avoid giving a lecture on how appalled I am at the idea of people on vacation going "shopping" as an activity. But I suppose if you're dropping 4000-plus dollars on some piece of crap Alaskan cruise, your inability to resist purchasing a DVD copy of Avatar you'll never even unwrap or a unnessecary set of overpriced bath towels is the least of your worries.
I drove all the way through Canada for this shit?
Bob Scheer's Lumberjack Sports InternationalI can only assume that this is the Alaskan approximation of a professional lumberjack competition. For those who are unfamiliar: Lumberjack Sporting Events are competitions which seek to cash in on the general public's INTENSE fascination with lumber processing by hosting events in which burly contestants attempt to saw through large pieces of wood. If this sounds exciting to you, hold on to your hats, because we're just getting started! Here are some of the other popular events.
90-Foot Speed ClimbContestants make their way up a large 90 foot tall wooden pole. Upon reaching the top they are instructed to release the catch on their safety harness and fall to their deaths. Failure to execute the latter maneuver may result in a warning or (in rare instances) a deduction of up to four points from their score.
Block KnockParticipant places a small block of wood on his right shoulder and states, boldly, "Any sonofabitch who knocks this block off my shoulder will have to answer to me." The block will invariably be knocked off by another (substantially more brawny) participant, at which point the original participant should profess his unwillingness to fight, fanning his face and citing the sudden onset of "the vapors" as grounds for his refusal.
Log StandParticipant will stand on a stump (he diameter of which is not to exceed 36 inches) with his arms crossed defiantly until further notice.
Let's All Eat Those PancakesA bell will ring and 8-10 participants will begin to eat pancakes from a large platter while vocalizing onomonopia such as "um num num num", "gobble smack snarf" and "garaumph" with each bite. Upon the conclusion of the exercise, points will be distributed amongst participants at random, compelling a participant to ask, "What was even the point of all this anyway?" This participants points will then be revoked, and he will be issued a grievance citation.
Axe ThrowThe participant will plant his feet shoulder-width apart and begin to heave small hand axes into a nearby forest. When participant is invariably approached by a spectator and asked what he is doing, participant should pause for a moment with a far off look in his eye, shrug, and reply, "Just throwin axes." The spectator should shake his head, getting a screwed-up look on his face, and the participant should then resume throwing axes.
And More!Certainly there are other events, but I don't have time to go into all of them here. And in any case, while the events may sound intriguing, it's no secret that the popularity of spectator lumberjacking is due mostly in part to the white-hot sexual fury which the lumberjack is said to invoke in women. And indeed, research has shown that observing an unbathed, taciturn man in suspenders cutting through a length of stump can get even the staunchest lesbian feminist's blood and secretions flowing (much to her dismay!).
Fishing/HuntingIt is not enough for one to simply observe mother nature. To truly appreciate her in all her glory, one must become an active participant in her circle of life. To this end, one who wishes to commune with nature should seek to hunt and fish as much as possible, for these are the true pursuits of the environmentalist. To pull a fish from the water is not enough. Allow it to lie shivering on the deck, and smile as slowly suffocates in the humid summer air. Enjoy this feeling of power, for you are man, and the lives of earth's creatures belong to you and you alone.
Where hunting is concerned, do not limit yourself to tradition. Birdwatching has it's place, as surely there is some small measure of satisfaction in viewing a mountain bluebird through a pair of binoculars on a dewy spring morn. But imagine how much more satisfaction one might achieve by firing a 0.22 caliber bullet into the tiny breast of this beautiful creature. You have ended a life forever, and in doing so have gained a greater appreciation of these holy beasts.
The same holds true for larger game. But do not sully nature's reputation by firing a gun (or even a bow) within her kingdom. To do so would be tantamount to earthrape. A true hunter uses only his hands and his wits. Injure the creature, and place your hands around it's neck. There is no sound quite so satisfying as the ragged cough of a dying fawn whose windpipe you have cracked with your very own hands. Once the final shiver of death has passed through he creature's frail body, you shall gaze into the fog of the creatures lifeless eyes, pressing your lips to his. In doing so, you will have discovered the true meaning of The hunt. In thrusting your tongue down his throat, you will have thrust your tongue down the throat of God.
In ClosingAlthough it has caused both physical and mental damage to my body on occasion, I still hold a great deal of love in my heart for the gorgeous state of Alaska. Like an abused child, I find myself returning to suckle at her rocky teat in my darkest hours. That this these glands secrete naught but crude oil and processed blubber makes no difference to me, for I am in love.
"To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."